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Free count costs Daly's Dublin

A STRANGE day in the land of the Déise. We had come to see some Allianz League hurling, but at times you had to wonder amid the sporadic outbreaks of rugby (rucks and scrums), winter golf (plugged sliotars) and soccer-like scoring famines (Dublin remained rooted on 0-8 for the first 27 minutes of the second half).

Anthony Daly called it a "war of attrition" and, for sure, Walsh Park's bog-like surface contributed to the lack of fluency or scores. But in the end Waterford prevailed by 1-13 to 1-10 – and deservedly so.

This triumph was forged in adversity, the hosts having lost their talismanic skipper Michael Walsh to a straight red card just shy of the half-hour. In Brick's absence they defended with a compelling mix of defiance, concentration and no little skill either.

Yet Dublin will rue what might have been, with squandered goal chances in either half compounded by a second half free count going emphatically in favour of 14 Waterford men.

Afterwards, Daly offered these as mitigating factors and he still believes Dublin aren't far away from clicking, despite losing two of their first three outings in Division 1A.

"There'll be good days and bad days," he ventured. "I saw a lot to like (out there). Look, it was a horror show in Salthill; we took most of the chances against Clare... in a dogfight like that, there was going to be X amount of chances and, fair play to the Waterford lads, they took them when they came."

Suffice to say, Daly was far more encouraged by yesterday compared to Dublin's day-one capitulation in Galway.

And yet, on this scratchy evidence, they will require oodles of fine-tuning before next Saturday night, when a resurgent Kilkenny come to Parnell Park.

At least conditions will be more hurler-friendly than yesterday, when both sides (the visitors especially) struggled to extricate the sliotar whenever it hit the turf.

But this wasn't the only reason for Dublin's demise, and their failure to register a solitary second-half score until the 63rd minute – when Alan McCrabbe broke their duck from a 65 – was the primary cause of their downfall.

Remember, they were playing against 14 men throughout this period, and it wasn't until the 67th minute that Dublin sub Conor McCormack levelled up the numbers, earning a straight red for a frustrated swipe across the hands of Jamie Nagle.

Daly had no issue with McCormack's red but his frustration with Cork referee Cathal MacAlastair was palpable, especially during the second half.

At one stage in the third quarter he raised six fingers, apparently indicating a 6-0 free count, and right at the death we spied a rueful laugh, just after Conal Keaney was penalised as he tried to barge through a Waterford wall in search of an equalising goal.

"Well, it was 11-2 (in frees) at one stage in the second half," he said afterwards. "Just a couple of times I thought we were entitled to maybe a free and we didn't seem to get it. Ah, that didn't win (the game)... fair play to Waterford, maybe it's good to be at home at times.

"I'm not a man for sour grapes," he added. "We'll have to look at the video and see are we giving away too many silly frees, because that's too high a count in a game like this: 17-5 with a fella like (Pauric) Mahony there, he's going to punish you."

Mahony finished with a match-winning 1-8, despite losing his radar late on to hit Waterford's last five wides.

CRUCIAL

His 23rd minute goal proved crucial: he emerged from one of the aforementioned rucks and duly planted a clinical shot beyond Gary Maguire.

Dublin had raced into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead, but that goal pushed Waterford four clear and the cushion had stretched to five (1-10 to 0-8) at the midpoint. Thereafter, in the absence of their skipper, the remaining Déise backs came into their own, the full-back trio of Tadgh de Burca, Shane Fives and Noel Connors taking turns to provide cameos of inspiration.

Yet Dublin will still regret those unconverted goal chances: an early Alan McCrabbe effort blocked down; Colm Cronin settling for a point when a goal beckoned; then, during their long scoreless trough, Eamon Dillon forcing a spectacular save from Stephen O'Keeffe and Connors denying Keaney with a last-gasp flick. The gap was out to seven before Keaney finally raised an opportunist green flag on 69 minutes, flicking home after Nagle caught a high ball only to under-hit his attempted backpass. Dillon's injury-time point raised the spectre of an unlikely draw, but it was not to be.


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